One thing I like very much about anime these days is the high amount of variety in the kinds of stories being animated, which makes me optimistic about the continued success of the industry. While we’re all familiar with fans complaining that “moe killed anime!” or that there are nothing but idol, isekai and generic ecchi series being produced, the reality is that you can always find really smart and innovative shows that tell a fresh and new kind of story if you look. That’s what I found when I started watching Smile Down the Runway (Japanese Runway de Waratte), the story of a vertically-challenged model and an amateur clothing designer who share big dreams.
The main heroine is Chiyuki Fujito, who’s obsessed with her dream of becoming a supermodel and participating in the Paris Fashion Week event one day. There’s only one problem: at just 158 cm (5’1), she’s far too short to make it in the world of fashion models. Things change for her when she meets Ikuto Tsumura, a quirky boy from her class who yearns to become a fashion designer, and creates a dress that allows her to get her first break. Smile Down the Runway follows the challenges that Chiyuki and Ikuto face as they try to overcome their many difficulties, with each aiding the other in moving forward one step at a time.
Along the way, we encounter other characters who, like Chiyuki and Ikuto, feel like they’re not in the place they should be. Kokoro, a beautiful and tall model who wants to stop her model work and become a designer instead. Fumiyo, the staff at a fashion magazine who is fascinated when she sees Chiyuki, a girl too short to be a proper model, and gains insight about why she feels out of place in a fashion-related job.
I frankly know nothing about the fashion world and was not expecting Smile Down the Runway to be a series I’d continue watching, but that’s what you get when you go something new with no pre-conceived expectations. In addition to characters that are likable and who make us want to cheer for them, the pacing is excellent, so that we’re never bored waiting for something to happen. And the waifus are pretty enjoyable, although it’s a serious anime telling a serious story.
The anime is being produced by Ezo’la, a new studio that’s only got a few shows under its belt, including Happy Sugar Life and Are You Lost? In keeping with the recent trend of anime that focus on a specific industry, like Koisuru Asteroid (which got paid product placement from a telescope company and an astronomy magazine) and Rifle is Beautiful (which was supported financially by the National Rifle Association of Japan), this show is getting some support, too: by Brother Industries, so its sewing machines can be featured in the series.
Do you think you’ll give Smile Down the Runway a chance? Let us know on Twitter!
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